This September, I'll be moving to Las Vegas for a year or two due to my partner's job transfer. We're patching together a long list of weekend trips (and some longer outings) to keep us busy. We're both very much from the Northeast, so everything will be new and different for us! We've already started revamping our gear to include more sun protection, more water capacity, etc. These forums have been a huge help in sourcing gear and apparel for desert trips!
Besides obvious adventures like Grand Canyon, Zion, Tahoe, what are people's favorite places to go? In particular, I'm looking for reasonable driving times for weekend trips, overnights, day hikes, and places that won't be super busy (or good times of year to avoid crowds). Places with entrance fees also irk me, so suggestions for alternatives to national parks are much welcome.
For reference, we usually put in 15-20 miles a day, but we'll probably plan some lower-mileage outings to acclimate to climate and altitude (it's been ~7 years since I last hiked out west). Our apartment is very close to Red Rocks so that's our go-to for day trips right now. We'll also be checking out the Mt Charleston area, as well as Lake Mead and surrounding. Also, any recommendations for good trail guides? Cool places to stop on the road to/from trailheads?